Seanad debates

Wednesday, 6 March 2024

International Women's Day: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Emer CurrieEmer Currie (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

It is an enormous privilege to be here again for International Women's Day and on the eve of a very important referendum on Friday to change Article 41.2. That article has let women down for a couple of reasons. It uses limiting language. As the Minister described and as I wished to point out myself, it refers to a woman's life within the home and a mother's duties in the home, which firmly puts the onus on women to take on caring duties.

The amendment also lets women down where a parent does want to be at home and be the primary home carer. The State has not lived up to the commitment that they shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour outside the home. That can be seen in the tax code where it benefits married couples who both work over single-income married households in tax individualisation. The policy has been to encourage two-income households and penalise stay-at-home parents, although we have tried to rectify that in recent years. Then, again, the State does not adequately provide support if both parents do want to work and need to work. There is the level of availability of childcare, care services and therapies. Moreover, all those parents, mainly mothers, who make up for the lost services in disability, for instance, consistently support and fight for their children. There is also the cost of care, which is a barrier to employment as well. Consequently, many women reach the point where it becomes not worth it to try to juggle everything. After all of that, and as many women have pointed out over the last few weeks, we still end up with the double shift and doing the majority of care work even if we work full-time.

I do not want to sound like America Ferrera's soliloquy from "Barbie" but the struggle to juggle is a genuine daily struggle. However, it can feel impossible to get the balance and our choices right. Therefore, in terms of Article 41.2, the status quo cannot remain and things must change. It is healthy to have a debate about the matter although I am not sure I would look to Hungary as a poster child for human rights and equality. There are lots of people, women and men, who want the best of both worlds. We want to be able to care for our children and to be able to work. As the Minister will know, I am a big advocate of core working hours as it allows people to balance caring duties and work in a non-gendered way. Countries like Finland are doing that, where men spend more time with their children than any other country and where more women work full-time.

We need to see as much attention being given to childcare provision and availability as to costs. We know that when we put our energy into improving childcare, that it works. We also need to see changes in maternity and paternity care and to support people to be able to stay at home. From where I stand, I want to be able to do the role of a carer and be able to work, and for my husband to have the same opportunities to do that, and the same for all the men whom I know.

Finally, I wish to pay tribute to the migrant women in our shared community of Dublin 15. Indian women are the highest paid cohort in Ireland. A lot of them work in ICT and STEM and I see the influence that this is having on schools and on my children growing up. It all helps to change Ireland for the better and to make us stronger. I am so incredibly proud to live in and work for a diverse community.


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